Thursday, July 19, 2012

Because I had more to say

And because one post on this topic wasn't enough, I wanted to note a couple more points in follow up to yesterday's post on Marissa Mayer:

1. I really liked this article (even though I nearly didn't read it because of the headline). Read it. The author makes some really good points.

2. Specifically, she makes the point that Marissa Mayer is an outlier. She's not like the rest of us. I tried to get at this in my last post, but I'm not sure I succeeded. But the point is that in this situation, Marissa is an outlier. Therefore, whatever happens for her isn't going to set the precedent for all the rest of us non-CEO women. What it does do is to put a pregnant and soon-to-be-new-mom in a very public spotlight which will hopefully continue to remind corporate America that everyone who can't set their own schedule by virtue of being the CEO still benefits from flexible work arrangements. And paid time off. And ultimately, corporations are better off for allowing it.

3. I cannot believe the amount of blathering and naysaying I've seen all over the interwebz about how Marissa is delusional for thinking she can only take a few weeks off and work through that time. How about this? Instead of expecting her to fail, let's cheer for her to succeed! And instead of assuming she's a naive pregnant lady who hasn't thought this through, let's assume she knows herself and how this pregnancy has gone thus far and is comfortable with her future plans. And also? Let's remember that this isn't set it stone! Sure, this is how she'd like for things to go. But you know what? I'm guessing if something changes, she's flexible enough to roll with it. And she's got the resources to figure out whatever she needs to!

4. Can we please move the discussion from the fact that people are bitching about how short Marissa's maternity leave will be to the fact that a lot of women do not get any paid maternity leave at all? Or even any unpaid time off if their company does not fall within FMLA? Also, has anyone bothered to think about the fact that if another 6 month pregnant woman was hired, she wouldn't be guaranteed ANY time off at ANY place because there is not mandatory maternity leave in this country? Please, can we talk about that for a few minutes?

5. I have another line for the end of the article as well. The author writes, "If an employer whines that a pregnant woman should come right back to work because Marissa Mayer did, then that woman should be smarter and stronger than [the author] was and advocate for herself." I would also argue that that woman should suggest that she be paid as well as Ms. Mayer and have the flexibility to set her own schedule. Then we can talk.


  1. I've largely tried to stay quiet on this debate, but at this point I feel I have to chime in. I am a woman whose "employer whines that a pregnant woman should come right back to work because Marissa Mayer did." Last week, my boss set a different article about this situation down on my desk and implied that because Ms. Mayer is taking 3 weeks leave, I should too.

    Frankly, I'm pretty offended by the writer of this article's statement. I don't need to “be smarter and stronger [than her] and advocate for myself.” I already do that, every day.

    First, a little background: I work for a 5-person company and I don't qualify for FMLA, and I am essentially the only woman who works here (we also have a woman college student who works part-time). We have had one other woman who worked here when I first started 5 years ago who was pregnant, and she wasn't exactly a model for successful pregnant women in the workforce (long story for another day. She is no longer with our company). So my boss has essentially no experience in working with pregnant women who, you know, actually DO their jobs, nor has he ever been married or had children of his own.

    When I found out I was pregnant, we were obviously overjoyed. But I also was almost immediately overcome by an overwhelming fear about telling my boss, because I knew he would have a bad reaction. I waited until I was 10 weeks and then I felt I couldn’t hide it anymore, so I made sure to be pro-active about going to my boss with a plan. I told him that I was pregnant, I was due in November, and that my husband & I had worked it out financially so that I would be taking 12 weeks of maternity leave. He agreed to allow me to take the leave, but I will not be paid or have any other benefits during that time. Fine. Allowing me to take the leave was more than enough for me, because he could have said no if he wanted to.

    Continued in my next comment...

  2. ...continued from previous comment.

    However, ever since then, I’ve had to listen to him complain about how he’s going to handle this “problem” (the problem being that I am pregnant and taking a leave) and how much we’ve already had to add to the payroll to pay for a replacement for me (We added the part-time college student who will go full-time when I leave. Nevermind the fact that we actually hired her to do marketing and it just works out that she can fill in for me while I’m gone…). So when he slapped an article on my desk yesterday and essentially implied that I should continue to work during my leave or take a shorter leave, I told him that a 12 week maternity leave was non-negotiable for me. I advocated for myself, as I’ve done every day while pregnant on the job, to show him that working with a pregnant woman doesn’t have to be a negative experience. But I doubt any of that will stop him from continuing to drop hints and implications about his disapproval of my plan.

    People will ask me why I don’t just quit. One, this economy & my fears that as a pregnant woman, I won't be able to find another job right now. Two, and more importantly, I truly love my actual job and what I do. I have to be honest though: my career is not my top priority, and it never has been for me. But I do take pride in my work and I do enjoy feeling accomplished at the end of the day. I’m not working 90 hour weeks or running a Fortune 500 company, but I am adding value to a company and a product line I believe in.

    I realize this is one anecdotal story, but I think it serves as a reminder that there are other people out there like me. I’m no less smarter or stronger than anyone else—I just have a boss who isn’t really family-oriented and I work for a company that doesn’t guarantee me maternity benefits. I’m sorry that the author of that article couldn’t advocate for herself. But to imply that all women in that situation aren’t either is wrong. So while I’m all for women making choices about their maternity leave and I agree with you on a lot of points, I’m still squarely in the camp of people who say they wish Marissa Mayer had never discussed her maternity leave plans publicly. I WILL be cheering for her to have a successful working leave. I WILL be cheering for her to handle the transition as easily as possible. I’m not conflicted in the least about her taking a short leave—if that’s what she wants to do, awesome. But again, to imply that I am not as smart or as strong or as much of an advocate for myself as other women are just because I have a jackass boss is wrong. I agree that Ms. Mayer is an outlier and her situation doesn’t apply to the rest of us. The problem is that some people in “the rest of us” don’t share that view. My boss has never had a family of his own so he IS easily swayed by situations and stories like this. He DOES think that if THAT working woman can go back after 3 weeks, ALL working women should.

    1. Hi Amy! Thank you so much for your comment, and I'm so sorry that it took me so long to reply. I've been thinking about this ever since you commented though, because your points deserve a lot of thought. First off, as I said to you on twitter, I think your boss sounds like a jackass and I wish that he had more common sense. Second off, you should never have to quit anything, though unfortunately as we're all well aware, there are some bosses/co-workers/jobs that make our work lives wonderful and also make our work lives hell. And it sounds like your boss is more of the latter there.

      But more to your point, I guess my reply to you is that you're doing precisely what women in your position need to do - that is, be the voice to educate and demonstrate how a pregnant woman brings value to her employer and shouldn't be dismissed necessarily (and should be allowed to take a reasonable amount of time off of work). Ultimately though, because laws are not in place requiring maternity leave it is up to each woman to advocate for herself when there aren't policies in place (such as FMLA). Clearly you do advocate for yourself, and until better maternity policies are in place or you change jobs, it sounds like you'll have to continue to do so.

      Any interest in doing a more full discussion of this as a guest post?? (not that you aren't busy enough with everything else...)


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